This interview was originally published on the website MyIndMakers, and cites the recent interview with Sellin on The Aronoff Report. The title of the article in MyIndMakers is “Pakistan has nurtured and leveraged Islamic extremism both domestically to suppress ethnic separatism and internationally.”


Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D., is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel with branch qualifications and assignments in Special Forces, Infantry, Chemical and Medical Services. He served in Iraq, Afghanistan and participated in a humanitarian Mission to West Africa. He is trained in Arabic, French and Kurdish. After completing Ph D in Physiology, he had a distinguished career in medical research and International business. He worked as a Manager and subject matter expert in telecommunications and command and control systems at IBM. He is author of the book, “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a second American Revolution”.

You have acknowledged in your interview on the Citizens Commission on National Security (CCNS) that Pakistan is carrying out a Proxy war in Afghanistan as well as in Kashmir and that it has an entire ecosystem to support war in Pakistan like safe havens which includes the Madrasas providing the Foot soldiers and requisite financial support. This is more or less an open secret now and India was aware of Pakistan’s diabolical ecosystem prior to 9/11.  Now China through its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also reaching out to Afghanistan. Withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan in such a situation will help its adversary i.e., China besides hurting India’s interests. In view of such a situation, how long will the US continue to allow Pakistan to do what it is doing with impunity?

For reasons that remain unfathomable to me, despite clear evidence of Pakistani duplicity, the U.S. apparently still considers Pakistan a reliable avenue to achieve the fulfilment of American foreign policy goals. Pakistan is an ally of China. Pakistan’s aims in Afghanistan differ sharply from those of the United States. Pakistan continues to support the Taliban, which has been responsible for the deaths and maiming of thousands of Afghans and Americans.

Yet, even now, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met a Taliban delegation in Islamabad just a few weeks after President Trump declared those peace negotiations dead. The U.S. is seeking peace in Afghanistan and securing U.S. national interests in South Asia through Pakistan, which bears primary responsibility for prolonging the war and opposes U.S. interests in the region. It is a fool’s errand.

We in India, find that there is a definite pattern to Pakistan’s proxy war. Whenever pressure mounts on Pakistan to take concrete measures, the Pakistani establishment identifies an odd terrorist, locks him up in jail temporarily and release him from confinement the moment international pressure eases. Do you also see any design/ pattern as to how Pakistan has been carrying out this kind of Proxy war thereby averting International pressure?

It is more than just a pattern. Pakistan has adopted the use of 4th generation warfare tactics, that is, proxy warfare, as an integral component of its national security strategy. More recently, Pakistan has supplemented it with nuclear blackmail, which, together with plausible deniability, has been meant to “immunize” the use of those proxies from retaliation.

Pakistan has nurtured and leveraged Islamic extremism both domestically to suppress ethnic separatism and internationally as proxies to achieve its foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan and against India, particularly in Kashmir. Pakistan has successfully deceived the internationally community by portraying itself as a victim rather than a perpetrator of Islamic extremism. It has also used its nuclear arsenal as blackmail threatening both India and the world either to achieve its aims or to avert international pressure.

American forces have been fighting the Taliban forces for the past 18 years. But even after such a long stay, the war seems to be far from over. You have served at missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and participated in a humanitarian mission to West Africa. Why has been the Afghanistan war so challenging with the end appearing to be nowhere close? How are the Taliban forces managing to bring new territories under its control?

Progress in Afghanistan has been thwarted for strategic and tactical reasons. Strategically, the role of Pakistan in supporting the Taliban and prolonging the war is primary. In addition, the Afghan central government has often lacked the unity and discipline displayed by the Taliban, has been plagued by corruption and has been ineffective in extending its reach in what is essentially a bottom-up society. Tactically, Afghan forces still suffer from inadequate leadership and logistics.

All of the above are solvable problems, but not as long as Pakistan continues to play a pernicious role in Afghanistan and the U.S. fails to acknowledge it and take the necessary steps to confront Pakistan.

While the U.S. has been fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan since 2001, Pakistan has been using the Taliban as a proxy to control Afghanistan as part of its struggle with India and to promote the foreign policy ambitions of its “all weather” ally, China.

For eighteen years the U.S. has wrongly applied counterinsurgency doctrine to a proxy war waged by Pakistan in Afghanistan. That approach was never a winning strategy as long as Pakistan controlled the supply of our troops in landlocked Afghanistan and regulated the operational tempo through its proxy army, the Taliban, which has maintained an extensive recruiting, training and financial support infrastructure inside Pakistan and immune to attack

Interestingly both the Indian and the American defence forces seem to have understood Pakistan’s nefarious designs. Do you envision any possibility of the US and India joining hands into coercing Pakistan to forsake its Afghanistan’s agenda and end this long-drawn battle in Afghanistan?

President Trump has taken some positive steps toward advancing relations with India, but more needs to be done if he is to secure U.S. interests in South Asia, primarily against terrorism and the attempt by China and Pakistan to economically and militarily dominate the region and, in the process, isolate India.

The U.S. should strive to include India in the Afghan peace process and provide greater diplomatic support for India on the Kashmir issue. Ultimately, restoration of Indian sovereignty to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir could positively affect U.S. interests by blocking Chinese regional hegemony and providing a friendly neighbour and reliable land route to Afghanistan and put an end to Pakistan’s geographic blackmail.

After nearly nine rounds of peace talks with the Taliban and the supposed Camp David meeting, President Trump called off the talks just two days before the 9/11 anniversary. But two days ago, Taliban have reportedly met the US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad for the first time after the September peace process was stalled. What explains American volte-face and is it an indication of revival of talks?

I always expected the U.S – Taliban negotiations to resume. The question is, in what form? I see very little chance of success by simply picking up where they left off. Without the participation of the Afghan government and a ceasefire, the dialogue just devolves into talks about the conditions and schedule of a U.S. withdrawal, which has been the aim of the Taliban and Pakistan. That, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.

It is now beyond doubt that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban. But why there has been a reluctance on the part of the US and the World in general to call the bluff of Pakistan? Summing up, why is World still hesitant to join hands to extricate forces supporting/patronising terrorism?

Historically, much of the blame for not confronting Pakistani terrorism falls upon the United States.

One source of America’s current dilemma in Afghanistan was not U.S. intervention against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, per se, but the failure by the Reagan Administration allowing the Central Intelligence Agency to blindly outsource mujahideen funding to Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency, the ISI, which funnelled American money and arms, not to Afghan nationalists like Ahmad Shah Massoud, but to pro-Pakistani Islamists such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.

It is now an undisputed fact that the Taliban were created by the ISI beginning in 1994 as a means to intervene in the Afghan civil war and influence the outcome in favor of Pakistani national interests when its previous favored Islamist, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, failed in that effort.

While the U.S. has been fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan since 2001, Pakistan has been using the Taliban as a proxy to control Afghanistan as part of its struggle with India and to promote the foreign policy ambitions of its “all weather” ally, China.

Instead of directly confronting Pakistan, the U.S. supplied Pakistan with generous aid packages to bribe them from pursuing a course of action opposed to our own. It didn’t work. Pakistan used U.S. funding for its own purposes while continuing to support the Taliban.

More recently, China has protected Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy by blocking diplomatic and financial sanctions against Islamabad.

As a person with a longstanding experience in medical research what dangers do you foresee of a potential chemical and biological warfare to the World?

The potential use of chemical and biological warfare agents by terrorists and rogue nations will continue to present a problem. Most recently, chemical agents appear to have been used by both sides in the Syrian conflict.

In this new era of multipolar world, India is adhering to strategic autonomy pursuing its national interests. Does this augur well for an Indian rise in the coming years and decades where it looks at an “India First” approach or is there a danger that this will force India to tie itself into knots?

India should act according to its national interests. It is natural to assume that Indian citizens should expect their government to act in their best interest, “India First,” if you will. Strategic autonomy is an important principle of statecraft, but it is not all or nothing, which is why alliances and temporary forms of collaboration are staples of international diplomacy. I do not consider “India First” and flexibility as mutually exclusive concepts.

 In the 21st century context of cyber security and warfare, how relevant are the age-old methods of defence and how are governments gearing up for this transition in terms of resource allocation and priority management?

Traditional defence modalities and emerging technologies are interdependent and cross-domain. For example, virtually every aspect of national security, including the detection of threats, the use of weapons, the deployment of forces and their resupply, is now dependent on the integrity of critical space-based capabilities, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Cyberattack on space-based systems can produce data loss, service disruptions, sensor interference or the permanent loss of satellite capabilities. An adversary could potentially seize control of a satellite through a cyberattack on its command and control system, subtly corrupt the data it provides or even redirect its orbit, essentially transforming it into a kinetic weapon against other space infrastructure.

The future of warfare will be defined by emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum-based cryptography, quantum computing and the evolution of space-based internet infrastructure.

The Chinese military considers “space dominance” a prerequisite for “information dominance.” As part of China’s AI effort, Beijing has invested vast sums of money into quantum technological development and is coupling it to an extremely ambitious space program. Chinese strategists regard the ability to use space-based systems, and to deny them to the enemy, as “central to modern warfare.”

As India continues to advance its space program and the incorporation of new technologies into its defence systems, resource allocation and priority management will be a necessary ingredient.

China and Russia have been actively pursuing peace processes for Afghanistan. In the event of exit of the US forces from Afghanistan without proper power sharing process between the Afghanistan government and Taliban, what kind of geopolitical and strategic powerplay will the South Asian region forced to deal with?

It is not just a proper power sharing process between the Afghanistan government and Taliban that is needed as a prelude to an exit of the US forces from Afghanistan, even if another civil war in Afghanistan can be averted.

The interests of nation states and the threat of terrorism are potentially on a collision course. China, Russia and India are major regional players, whose interests do not neatly overlap. China and Pakistan seek to jointly dominate the region economically and militarily, which includes the incorporation of Afghanistan into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and, more broadly, into Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, the consequence being the relative isolation of both Russia and India.

Layered on top of that is the increase of regional jihadi terrorism that will be an inevitable outgrowth of what will be construed as a Taliban victory in Afghanistan to which the already considerable presence of Pakistan-based terrorists will be a major contributor and a major complicating factor in the strategic dynamics of the region.


The views expressed by CCNS members are the views of the individual members, and are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS.

© 2024 Citizens Commission on National Security

© 2024 Citizens Commission on National Security